The Middle School

Grade 8

Curriculum and Course Guide

Eighth Grade Core


The eighth grade English course emphasizes literature, vocabulary, grammar, and poetry. The major themes of adventure and leadership emerge throughout the literary works studied during this course, which include but are not limited to: The Iliad by Homer, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

A student’s understanding of grammatical standards is reinforced through regular writing assignments and a supplementary writing course. Throughout the course of the year, students are also challenged to memorize poetry and recite selected poems, emphasizing the importance of presentation. Regular and frequent writing assignments on the literature component of the course allow students to become efficient writers as they learn from the great works of literature they read. An appreciation for literature and authorship is fostered as well as the ability to analyze a text in depth.

Ancient History

The eighth-grade Ancient History course is a survey of the early civilizations that have played a pivotal role in the development of Western culture. The primary text for this survey is written by the Core teachers, spear-headed by Bill Dardis. Chronologically, the class begins with the questions of what man is and what we know about our earliest origins. Then, the class fast-forwards to the cradle of ancient culture, the Tigris-Euphrates valley, with an examination of the great Mesopotamian societies, including the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Chaldeans. It moves on to another great river valley, the Nile, to examine the Egyptians, and then surveys the early Indo-European civilizations of the Hittites and the Persians. Included also is a look at the smaller Eastern Mediterranean cultures of the Phoenicians, Arameans, and Hebrews. Throughout this survey course, students will be asked to grasp both the distinctive features and the accomplishments of each society, ranging from its political and religious institutions to its artistic and intellectual achievements, as well as its place in the larger story of the ancient world.

Having set the stage with a survey of the major Middle Eastern civilizations, the class will then shift its focus to the two great Mediterranean civilizations: Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. As befitting their monumental impact on the West, these two civilizations will receive a more thorough and systematic treatment, beginning with the early Bronze Age Greek societies of the Minoans and Mycenaeans and continuing to the Fall of Rome. Along the way, students will meet such imposing figures as Pericles, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, and review the epic military struggles on which history turned, including the Persian, Peloponnesian and Punic Wars. Students will also encounter the remarkable genius of these two civilizations, from the unparalleled philosophic and artistic brilliance of fifth century Athens—the age of Socrates and Sophocles—to the pragmatic genius of the Romans, exemplified in their innovations in engineering, architecture, and law. While the first part of the class relies primarily on archaeological evidence, the latter part will give the boys access to the primary sources that make the study of the Greeks and Romans so much richer than a simple archaeological record.

Pursuing such an ambitious survey of Ancient History proficiently requires students to develop a number of critical skills, including the skill of discerning chronological and geographical context. This requires the essential skill of memorization, of mastering various dates and being able to identify key places on a map. Discerning chronological and geographical context involves the skill of being able to move back and forth across different eras and regions of the ancient world, recognizing both the distinctiveness of such eras and regions as well as the impact that they have on each other. It is to know why, for example, historians distinguish between Classical Greece and Hellenistic Greece, or what role climatic and topographical factors played in giving early Mediterranean cultures a huge cultural leap over those of Northern Europe. A major goal of this course is making students more adept at using and explaining such context in history.

The second crucial skill developed is the careful reading and outlining of text. In the study of history, more so than in most fields, it becomes crucial not to become lost in an array of facts but rather to discern major topics from minor details, and to be able to summarize and organize such information accordingly. To this end, students will learn and extensively practice outlining. Such skills will be further sharpened by taking notes on class lectures.

Finally, the third major skill developed is the critical evaluation of sources. This skill is the ability to evaluate a source of information in terms of its particular point of view and biases and thus better determine not only its perspective but its reliability and usefulness as well. A simple example makes clear how recognizing that a Spartan account of the Peloponnesian War will likely differ significantly from an account by their opponents, the Athenians.

Latin B

The eighth grade Latin course furthers the objectives established in the seventh grade Latin course. The second part of the course continues to use the Ecce Romani I book. After a rapid but comprehensive review, new aspects of Latin grammar are covered including the fourth and fifth declensions, the passive voice, demonstratives, relative clauses, indirect statements, participles, and the subjunctive mood. Longer prose stories are translated into English for the first time in a boy’s academic work. Upon completion of this course, the students can expect to enter a standard Latin II class at the high school level.

Due to an increase in the number of forms students will be required to learn, the students will be able to hone their ability to memorize. They also will further enlarge a growing vocabulary and continue to perfect the important skills of proper note-taking and test-taking. The fixed and clear structure of Latin grammar will give the boys a greater understanding of English grammar and of the nature of language in general. In studying the advanced aspects of grammar and in advancing through the translations, the boys will assume superior habits of thought and patterns of learning. This discipline is intended to form students as comprehensive readers, expressive writers, and clear thinkers. By the end of this course, students will have the ability to read the works of great writers such as Cicero, Ovid, and Vergil in their original language and they will have the option of continuing their classical education by taking ancient Greek as early as ninth grade.

Algebra I

This course will begin with a thorough review of the major topics from the seventh-grade pre-algebra course. Following this review of material, this course covers the following mathematical topics: angles, polygons, perimeter, rectangular area, unit multipliers, areas of triangles, graphs, variables, word problems, equivalent equations, reciprocals, exponents, roots, volume, surface area, circumference and pi, graphing inequalities, theorems for exponents, advanced word problems, graphing linear equations, intercept-slope method, multiplication and division of polynomials, subscripted variables, simplification of radicals, monomial and binomial factoring, difference of squares, quadratic equations and formula, completing the square, distance problems, uniform motion problems, and additional topics if time permits.

The habits and skills that this course seeks to establish for students includes order in problem solving, neatness, completeness, attention to detail, perseverance, proper arithmetic, showing problem-solving steps, verifying solutions, and identifying and correcting common sources of mistakes. The textbook used is Algebra 1 – An Incremental Development, 3rd Edition, by Saxon. While most students take Algebra I during their eighth-grade year, Algebra II is an honors level course that is open to eighth-grade students who have already completed Algebra I.

Physical Science

This course acts as an introduction to physical science and in doing so covers the major areas of physics and chemistry. The course intends to be a wide survey of the laws of motion and matter and seeks to fascinate students by their first in-depth exposure to these physical sciences. The text used is Physical Science published by Scott Foresman. The following major topics are covered throughout the course: mechanics, Newtonian physics, laws of motion, heat and temperature, thermodynamic models of chemistry, waves and sound, the behavior of light waves, electricity and magnetism, the structure of matter, chemistry and the periodic table, and the universe and solar system.

The objective of the class is to stimulate a further interest in science for the student, to provide an understanding and fuller relationship between major physical laws and the physical world that surrounds us, to develop some level of quantitative thinking and problem-solving capability, and to provide an appreciation of the usefulness of mathematics, real life examples and experiments.


The eighth grade religion course seeks to encompass the truths taught by the Catholic Church, beginning with the abiding presence of Christ, prayer, the sacraments, worship, the Blessed Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, the communion of saints, prominent saints of the first two thousand years, the universal call to holiness, virtue, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, vocations, the lay apostolate, marriage and the family, the Christian in the world, law and conscience, the social order, the absolute and infinite dignity of each human life from conception until natural death, and the last things of death, just judgment, and the afterlife. The main textbook used is Our Life in the Church of the Faith and Life series published by Ignatius Press.

The first quarter of the course is devoted to Confirmation preparation because most of the eighth-grade students are to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in their local parishes. This preparation takes in a great many of the truths of the Catholic faith but concentrates on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual and the Church. Study materials include A Brief Review for Confirmation published by The Daughters of Saint Paul, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and two chapters from The Life of Grace by Ignatius Press.

Even if all of the truths of the Catholic faith are studied, understood, and able to be defended, little is accomplished unless these truths are lived well in our everyday and ordinary lives. Carrying out our ordinary work, whatever our station in life, and sanctifying it by offering it to God, is to live the truths of our Catholic faith heroically and to fulfill the call to holiness that each of us has been given.

In order to help transform the teaching of our Catholic faith into a faith that is lived on a daily basis, the course is augmented with materials, such as Our Lady of Fatima by William Thomas Walsh, chronicling the faith of three small poor children who grow to live extraordinarily holy lives; The Cure of Ars, about the patron saint of parish priests, written by Mary Fabyan Windeatt; writings by Pope John Paul II; videos; and other materials that demonstrate the faith being lived by ordinary people in their everyday lives. Each student writes an essay on a favorite saint and then makes a presentation to the class on the life of that saint. In order to cultivate a life of piety and develop a prayer life, the student will have regular opportunities each month for confession, spiritual talks, and recitation of the rosary during a chapel service held once every two weeks by the Heights’ chaplains.

Electives and Physical Education

Students have the choice of registering for one of three courses as their elective: Honors Spanish, Intermediate Band, or Art.

Honors Language Program: Spanish B

This year-long elective class is designed to continue building the basics of Spanish necessary to improve language competency. Students in the Honors Language Program are enrolled in both Latin and Spanish classes. The learning focus is on reading, writing, listening, and speaking in Spanish. During a second year, grammar and vocabulary are still stressed heavily, but a new focus on the oral skills of listening and speaking is added. Daily activities, homework, periodic quizzes, and presentations are a part of regular classes. News programs, videos, newspapers, magazines, and maps will be used to practice listening, comprehension, and versatility in the student’s use of Spanish. The students should also use opportunities for speaking in class to enhance their pronunciation skills and fluency. Class participation will enhance the student’s mastery of Spanish as well as his understanding of the spoken word. The primary text for this class will be ¡En español! published by McDougall Littell.


The eighth grade Art class is a survey class that studies perspective, realism, architecture, and color through a variety of mediums. Students are expected to draw and sketch as well as understand and appreciate great works of art. This blend of experiences is intended to develop an aesthetic awareness in the student. The opportunity is provided for longer term projects and an after school Art Club is available for extra developmental time.

Intermediate Band

Students can choose this daily opportunity to practice their instrument as their full year elective class. Students in the Band are expected to have an interest in developing their performance ability and will need to make a commitment to practicing their instrument on a regular basis. Students will perform as a group in several concerts and competitions throughout the year.

Physical Education

Students participate in physical education class on a daily basis. The emphasis of this class is on fitness, skill development, understanding the rules of a variety of sports, engaged participation, and sportsmanship. Students are encouraged to engage in healthy competition and are given the opportunity for exercise on a daily basis. Depending upon the season, soccer, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse teams practice during this class period under the supervision and direction of their coaches. All other middle school sports teams practice outside of physical education class.

Student Exchange to Spain

The Heights Middle School participates in a limited student exchange with The Retamar School in Spain. Interested and academically eligible students from The Heights will be able to travel to Spain for three weeks at a time. Participating Heights students will be hosted by families of The Retamar School and will also act as a host to a Retamar student as he visits The Heights. This exchange intends to provide a unique opportunity for cultural immersion as well as an opportunity for students to develop their growing sense of independence. Students will be considered eligible if their grades are judged to be sufficient and if they have demonstrated the ability to independently remain up to date on their school work.